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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Spaghetti Central, and could it be F1's Final Lap???

Of late the world of F1 has had several controversies - ranging from spying to Mclaren's lie-gate to the new diffusers on the cars and even Max Mosley's Nazi-style sexcapade scandal - in recent times.

However, now an even greater threat looms over the sport, something that may bring an end to F1 as we know it. The sport's governing body, the FIA had decided to impose a new budget cap of $40mn (yes, that's a bit tight in F1 terms) on the teams' spending (apart from the drivers' salaries and travel expenses). This would level the playing field and help smaller teams like Brawn GP, Williams, Torro Rosso, Force India, and perhaps newer entries next year, to compete with the fully-loaded ones like Ferrari and McLaren. Teams could still opt out of the cap though, but they'd face restrictions like a ban on in-season testing.

FOTA [Formula One Teams' Association] has hence been demanding that a different solution be arrived at, not a budget cap. Max Mosley, the FIA president, has been sticking to his guns on the issue though, even going to the extent of saying that Ferrari (who protested) could "leave Formula One if they wanted to".

Well, now it looks like that's exactly what could happen. Ferrari, Renault, Toyota, Red Bull have issued an ultimatum to the FIA saying that if the budget cap persists next year, then they WILL LEAVE F1 AT THE END OF the 2009 season. Here's Ferrari's statement in full:

"The Board of Directors examined developments related to recent decisions taken by the FIA during an extraordinary meeting of the World Motor Sport Council on 29 April 2009. Although this meeting was originally called only to examine a disciplinary matter, the decisions taken mean that, for the first time ever in Formula One, the 2010 season will see the introduction of two different sets of regulations based on arbitrary technical rules and economic parameters.

"The Board considers that if this is the regulatory framework for Formula One in the future, then the reasons underlying Ferrari's uninterrupted participation in the World Championship over the last 60 years – the only constructor to have taken part ever since its inception in 1950 – would come to a close.

"The Board also expressed its disappointment about the methods adopted by the FIA in taking decisions of such a serious nature and its refusal to effectively reach an understanding with constructors and teams.

"The rules of governance that have contributed to the development of Formula One over the last 25 years have been disregarded, as have the binding contractual obligations between Ferrari and the FIA itself regarding the stability of the regulations.

"The same rules for all teams, stability of regulations, the continuity of the FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) endeavours to methodically and progressively reduce costs, and governance of Formula One are the priorities for the future.

"If these indispensable principles are not respected and if the regulations adopted for 2010 will not change, then Ferrari does not intend to enter its cars in the next Formula One World Championship.

"Ferrari trusts that its many fans worldwide will understand that this difficult decision is coherent with the Scuderia's approach to motorsport and to Formula One in particular, always seeking to promote its sporting and technical values.

"The Chairman of the Board of Directors was mandated to evaluate the most suitable ways and methods to protect the company's interests"

The commercial rights holder of F1, Bernie Ecclestone, however is trying to broker a sort of "peace treaty" between the teams and the FIA. "The key to F1 is Ferrari," Ecclestone said. "They have been there for 60 years. They are partners of ours. They are the people we need to take into consideration. At the moment everyone is hanging on to their apron strings. Sort that out and we will be OK." Thanks to his efforts, FOTA representatives will be meeting with Max Mosley (picture right) in London on Friday in an effort to thrash out some sort of compromise. Ferrari could quite easily survive selling their cars without an F1 team to raise their prestige, but if Ferrari and the other big names go, then F1 will collapse like a pack of cards, the sport will never be the same again.

Ferrari meanwhile, have been showing every race that they're getting back to their spaghetti roots. The last race was filled with aweful decisions starting with their once again overconfident move of not sending Raikkonen out for another qualifying run, eventually failing to qualify for Q2. They sat tight and comfy while the rest of the field overtook them and the Finn ended up at the 16th grid position after qualifying while Button once again had pole. Kimi didn't finish the race either due to some technical issue with his car that saw him retiring early.

Add to that the crappy way in which Felipe Massa had his car filled with less petrol than needed. The team then informed him of the blunder via his radio, asking him to conserve fuel else he wouldn't finish the race. Massa was furious and asked his engineer over the same channel "What Can I DO??" after being repeatedly asked to save fuel. Thanks to the way Ferrari screwed up, Massa dropped down from 4th to 6th and just about managed to finish. He didn't have enough gas in the tank to even get back to the pits. Well Massa has come full circle - from driving away with the fuel hose still attached to having too little fuel filled. Perhaps Ferrari is just trying hard to not make the same mistakes twice, but make new ones each race. Let's see what they come up with at Monte Carlo.

All they need to do is look down the pit lane and learn how its done from Brawn GP.


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